The Haunting Beauty of a Hut-to-Hut Hike in the Dolomites

  A monumental mountain range in northeastern Italy, the Dolomites — a World Heritage Site since 2009 — are home to some of the world’s most majestic scenery: colossal vertical limestone walls, gloriously green valleys. There are several Alta Via routes, but the AV1, with fewer exposed sections, is ideal for less experienced hikers. Mountain huts called rifugios make it all the more accessible.

The trail runs south from Lago di Braies, a chilly Alpine lake in South Tyrol, to Belluno, a town in Italy’s Veneto region. The first few miles include both a ferocious ascent up a slope covered in scree and broad views of a vast plateau — a fitting preview of the striking contrasts to come.

The trail’s northern terminus lies less than 20 miles from the Austrian border, and many villages in its vicinity have both an Italian and an Austrian name — a reminder of the region’s linguistic peculiarities. (In addition to speaking Italian and German, many residents of the Dolomites also speak a language called Ladin.)

Idyllic mountain huts, called rifugios, are spaced at day-hike intervals along the trail; there are about 30 altogether. (The 75-mile trek typically takes about 10 days to complete.) The trail reaches a maximum elevation of over 9,000 feet and includes a total elevation gain of more than 20,000 feet — which means that arriving early at the rifugios and catching up on rest often feels more like a necessity than a luxury.

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